About one third of our customers have more than one Bugeye Sprite. And so I was not surprised when Bill in California, who already owns a stunning restored Bugeye we prepared for him called “Drusilla,” called to purchase our former racer called “Fletch.” When he said that he wanted to keep it in NYC, that got me quite excited. Of course a Bugeye in The Big Apple is about the worst place for the car, with Sprite-sized potholes, abundant newly licensed taxi drivers and full contact parking. But in this age of custom-ride reality TV shows, why not? We proposed an urban assault package with full body armor and sketched up some Max-max inspired nerf bars. But Bill wanted to keep the car’s clean lines intact. We looked to the sky and asked all NYC parking garages attendants to please be kind to this car. And then we set out to convert this former track car to an urban warrior.
We had already fit new street tires and stock lighting, which we quickly upgraded to full LEDs, for maximum visibility. I was worried that the unlocked fuel cap might invite mischief, so we fit a locking cap, buried under a slick racing flip up assembly. We agreed to leave the interior spartan, to retain the racing heritage, and to keep the interior best suited to a quick wipe out should it get wet. We fit racing lap belts, two points of the racing belts you would have found in this car. We fit a leash on the track-required electrical kill switch on the cowl, so the key could be used for additional anti-theft, but would not be a nuisance if ever misplaced. Next came an air horn, electric cooling fan, air filters and a custom tonneau to keep the dirt, water and prying eyes out of the cockpit. That British vinyl had to be custom-fit around all five roll bar legs. And we also removed the rear tube shocks, too stiff, and hanging low in harm’s way. The original lever shocks were a smart choice for ride quality and ground clearance.
There were multiple mechanical challenges given the rough road ahead… for example, the racing header and exhaust was seemingly designed for maximum volume (and performance) so we fit a great muffler but we also had to keep the header from rattling on the driver footwell. Not a concern in a race car since it only happens at low RPMs. But at traffic lights it was knocking out my fillings. So we cut, welded and bent the pipes and now the car is actually somewhat civilized.
I always wanted a race car, but didn’t want to wait till weekends to enjoy it. Driving this car around the block is like taking a lap around the track, and that’s what makes is so much fun. Bill will have to decide if he wants to keep the close ratio straight cut racing gears. The whine you get with this gear-set is intoxicating but perhaps we’ll put in a five speed transmission later.
We’re all really excited about this project, because we pushed the envelope once again and made a Bugeye for a new mission-specific application. Bill wanted a car he could park in New York City and draw a big crowd, even among the most jaded Manhattanites. Fletch will do this job nicely. Come for a drive with me in the video below!